After a life enriched by love, friends, and laughter, Karen Rendina, 49, of Sparta, N.J., left us this past Friday. Karen will be forever remembered as the most wise and loving wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher, and friend. Her accomplishments reflect her priorities: showing those around her how much she cared for them, and making the world a better place.
Karen was born in Ridgewood, N.J., and grew up in Emerson, N.J. She spent most of her childhood summers at Candlewood Lake in Connecticut. In high school, she played softball, tennis, and basketball, and was a member of the marching band. Early on, her parents taught her that great rewards always follow a great effort. Working on a paper delivery route through high school, she funded a trip to Europe on an exchange program.
Her college career began at Catholic University in Washington DC, where she was a member of the tennis team. After her freshman year she moved to the University of Connecticut, where she earned a degree in Psychology. Her college friends appreciated her kindness and love of the outdoors.
After graduation, Karen decided to follow her passion for helping people, which was a guiding principle through her whole life. This value brought her to Houston, TX, where she spent a season working for Teach for America. On her way back home she stopped in Georgia, where she helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity.
Once back in New Jersey, she obtained her certification and spent a year teaching elementary school science at Our Lady of Fatima in Piscataway. The following year, she secured a coveted 4th grade teaching position at Bogert School in Upper Saddle River, where she provided an outstanding learning experience for her students.
Karen met her husband when they both worked at a bookstore. After a few years in Bloomfield, N.J., they settled in Sparta in the year 2000. Once there, Karen was part of the Junior Women’s Club, and the Saint Kateri Parish where she was also a catechist. During these years she also earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Technology and became a Master Gardener.
Her major life achievement is being a mother to her three wonderful children, with their doting father Pablo. She shared her passion for reading with frequent trips to the library and recommendations of favorite books, and her love of music, by encouraging her children to participate in instrument lessons and performances. The pride that she took in their accomplishments was evident, and the energy that she poured into being a mom of three bright and talented boys was inspirational. All who knew Karen thought of her as a model; she knew when to roll her eyes and let things go, and when to put her foot down.
After taking a break to be at home with her family, she continued pursuing her busy career, demonstrating how to be a working mother with joy and devotion to both home and her students. Karen taught robotics, computer science, coding, digital photography, and languages. More recently she held an adjunct professor position at Sussex County Community College and also taught elementary school and pre-school science at the Gottesman Academy in Randolph.
Karen’s most difficult challenge, her fight against brain cancer, was another example of her strength, caring, and dedication to accomplishment. She spent the years that she was ill doing only the things she loved: connecting with friends and family over the phone or while walking around her neighborhood or gardening with her children, finding joy in what she surrounded herself with, and expressing her appreciation for the time, family, and friends that she loved so dearly. Once again, Karen set an example by taking her life one moment at a time; acknowledging pain and suffering but not being trapped by it — no matter how ill she felt, Karen was always ready to laugh.
Karen is survived by her husband Pablo, her children Lorenzo, Lucas and Niko; her father Kevin Blumenstock and his wife Peggy; her brother Keith Blumenstock, his wife Tara and their children Max, Austin and Chase; her parents-in-law Alfredo and Elsa; her brothers-in-law Horacio and Fernando and his wife Emma; aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. She is also survived by countless friends from all areas of her life who considered her family. She is predeceased by her sister Kristin and their mother Barbara Blumenstock.
Because of the safety restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a celebration of Karen’s life will be held once large gatherings are permitted. In lieu of flowers, donations to the “Karen’s Boys Education Fund” (gofundme.com/f/karens-boys-education-fund) may be made in memory of Karen’s generous spirit and loving presence.